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Step Four: Begin Meeting as Partners and Learn More

Once the core partnership of employers and relevant stakeholders is recruited, formal meetings of the sector initiative should begin. By the time the first meeting is scheduled, a set of potential issues should have been identified during initial regional and industry needs assessments, including individual meetings with employers and stakeholders, and an Industry Roundtable or similar event. The first and second meetings should focus on energizing the partners around this set of issues by facilitating discussions about the issues, and by guiding a process for their prioritization.

For the first meeting (Sample Agenda for First Partnership Meeting), the intermediary must facilitate the discussion in a way that makes clear the needed balance between achieving short-term outcomes and long-lasting change in each issue area. For each issue, the partners should articulate a problem statement, the impact the partnership can have on the issue, and general categories of strategies to undertake toward that impact. The intermediary should introduce the concept of a Logic Model and an Action Plan, or other similar technique for strategic planning. These models emphasize the importance of envisioning change in the foreseeable future, articulating goals toward that vision, identifying benchmarks that indicate successful completion of goals, and action steps needed to complete them. The partnership will want to embark on such a planning exercise by the third or fourth meeting. Another helpful tool at the first or second meetings is an introduction to where the partnership is going, a good example of which is the Roadmap to a Regional Skills Alliance for Advanced Manufacturing.

The first and second meetings should also: 1) Result in the joint development of a mission statement or vision for change; 2) Identify areas for further in-depth analysis; and 3) Begin to identify governance and operational structures of the partnership. This might include staffing arrangements (part-time or full-time coordinator from the convening organization or from partner organizations for example), the Organizational Chart, internal communication plans, and external messaging processes. Remember these items will be fully fleshed out as your partnership evolves, but it is always a good idea to start thinking about them early.

During this phase of the sector initiative, the intermediary will need to keep in mind (and where appropriate share with partners) some key partnership pitfalls and tips, such as:

  • Planning takes time – the process of gathering information and data, analyzing its results, identifying priority issues, developing a vision and goals for change, designing action steps to achieve the corresponding results, and identifying resources to utilize along the way… may take three months to a year of engagement and meetings.
  • No one has time to waste – Recognize that all partners, and especially employers, have competing workloads. Make every meeting a learning experience and a decision-making session. Keep meetings short and focused on solutions.
  • Recognize and reconcile as much as possible common sources of tension – i.e. money, unclear roles and responsibilities, and divergent missions across individual partners.

 See Partnership-Building: Common Pitfalls and Tips for more.